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The Gossiping Gourmet: It's a (tasty) jungle in here

July 31, 2013|By Terry Markowitz
  • Pita Jungle's Mediterranean Platter comes with hummus, baba galosh, ratatouille, tzatziki, taboule, feta cheese, dolmades, falafel, green beans and pita bread.
Pita Jungle's Mediterranean Platter comes with… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

The consequences of these economic times have hit the restaurant industry hard. There are fewer and fewer new restaurants opening, and most of those that do are established chains. So as a reviewer, I find that I must resort to re-reviewing restaurants that I haven't been to in several years or reviewing small new chains. I'm holding out on the larger chains for as long as possible.

Pita Jungle in Newport Beach originated in Arizona, but there are only three in California. One of the draws here is that everything is made from scratch and they advertise themselves as healthy. Online, you can get calorie counts and other nutritional data, as well as a list of which menu offerings are vegan or gluten free.

The space is quite attractive with high open-ductwork ceilings, clean contemporary lines, a full bar at one end, an open kitchen and a large, covered outdoor patio. Colorful abstract artwork adorns the walls. The menu is quite large and offers a long list of starters, hot or cold pitas, pita wraps, over a dozen entree salads, featured specials, wood-fired pizzas, healthy burgers, many side dishes and a few desserts.

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We began with a Mediterranean antipasto platter so that we could get a good sampling of the starters. We really didn't need to order anything else, it was so large. Excellent hummus was creamy and smooth with a hint of tartness. Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) had a rice filling accented with herbs and left a delicate, sour aftertaste. The falafel were especially good because the chickpea puree was not too dense and had lots of green herbs. The fried crust was thin and crispy. Baba ganoush, an eggplant puree spiked with garlic, had a lovely, smoky aftertaste. Two salads came on the plate, a chopped onion, tomato and parsley with a delicious oil and lemon dressing and a green bean, onion and carrot, finished with a light, slightly sweet dressing. Tzaziki (strained yogurt) with sliced cucumbers, ratatouille and a small hunk of feta cheese completed the platter. Two large-sized pita breads were provided for scooping. We couldn't begin to eat it all but enjoyed tasting everything.

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